UTEP Collaborates with Fujifilm to Improve Desalination Performance and Quality of Water
Anahy Diaz | April 14, 2020
Researchers from the Center for Inland Desalination Systems (CIDS) at the University of Texas at El Paso, have partnered with Fujifilm to study the electrical and hydraulic efficiency obtained from brackish water through the use of new methods of electrodialysis.
Malynda Cappelle, Ph.D., associate director for CIDS and Shane Walker, Ph.D., associate professor for Civil Engineering are modifying an existing mathematical model to predict and evaluate the performance of two methods of desalination using electrodialysis metathesis (EDM) and a new method developed by Fuijifilm.
The team’s goal is to compare each other’s EDM technique, this includes evaluating the techniques’ desalination performance, the water quality produced and the specific energy consumption.
Desalination refers to the removal of salts and minerals from a target substance, including saline and brackish water. There are various ways of performing this water purification process, one of them is called electrodialysis (ED), which allows ions to move through a semipermeable membrane under the influence of an electrical current.
“What is nice about electrodialysis, is it’s not a high pressure process, so you don’t need high pressure pumps,” said Cappelle. “You can tune your water quality with electrodialysis. If you want just a little bit of salt removal, say 25%, then you apply less energy, if you want 80% removal then you apply more energy.”
Another process of doing this is through EDM, a specific kind of ED. The difference between ED and EDM, is EDM’s use of two diluting streams and two concentrating streams.
Cappelle explains, it is like taking calcium and sulfate and mixing it with sodium and chloride, creating two really soluble streams (calcium chloride and sodium sulfate), meaning they are not going to precipitate or cause any falling of membranes.
Cappelle says EDM works very well but requires large amounts of salt to be purchased. Fujiflm, on the other hand, has found a way to conduct this process without purchasing any salt.
“I think that if we find ways of performing electrodialysis that are more cost effective, it could be a way for there to be another tool and tool box for either a water utility or industrial companies,” Cappelle said.
Cappelle’s research at UTEP, along with the support and assistance of Walker, Ph.D., and the late Tom Davis, Ph. D., has primarily focused on finding ways to improve the economic and environmental performance of water treatment processes. More specifically, looking at water treatment technology and how to make use of it to address issues such as environmental quality and climate change.
Cappelle says the most rewarding part of this research has been the opportunity to work alongside a company that is willing to innovate and work together to find a more efficient process aimed at improving the quality of water.
“I’ve been working with this specific electrodialysis metathesis technology since 2007 with Tom Davis until he passed away in 2018. It was his innovation that started this work. That’s part of why he came to UTEP and why I came to UTEP,” said Cappelle. “We knew that the technology worked really well and after working on something for more than 10 years, it’s neat to see progress.”
To learn more about CIDS at UTEP visit: http://cids.utep.edu